3a On Climate Change and water wars in Palestine
Q: I’d like you to comment on the issue of climate change which some people saying is changing very rapidly into climate disaster not in a hundred years but in maybe a few decades. What kind of impact that’s going to have on our capitalism, on our late western capitalism, and all the things that are linked to it, like the war on terror and issues that come out of it, like the terrible competition that will be for dwindling resources and energy as climate change bites? Thank you.
Chomsky: Well, of course, that’s a major issue right now even at the G8 meeting. By now, I think, there is very little doubt that human activity is significantly impacting the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of certain outer particle matter and so on, which is heating the earth probably to dangerous levels, maybe the catastrophic levels. These are called non-renewal processes, a small change can lead to a massive effect.
And it could happen suddenly. It could be delayed but it’s likely to be significant and severe. As usual, the major victims will be the poorest, the poorest people. It’s expected that the worst effects will be in places like sub-Saharan Africa or Bangladesh or arable areas of Pakistan and so on. They are near the-- many small countries might just disappear, go under water.
The richer countries will, as usual, find certain ways to adapt, may even partially benefit. So Canada is looking forward to opening the Northwest Passage, and declaring sovereignty which it never cared about before because it was ice field. But the effects will certainly be significant and one thing we can be confident about is that the longer we delay doing something about it, the worse it is going to be.
Well, right now the US alone is dragging its feet on doing something about it. This is incidentally another one of those cases and there are many, where – when we talk about the US, it’s kind of misleading, the US government is dragging its feet. The US population for years has been strongly in favor of taking aggressive action about this.
For example, the Kyoto Protocol was strongly supported by the population, rejected by the government-- both executive and Congress bipartisan-- rejected by the government, strongly approved by the population. In fact so strongly approved by the population that at the time of the 2004 presidential election, a majority of Bush voters thought that he supported the Kyoto Protocols. The reason, well, such an obvious thing to support that our man, this nice guy who you want to meet in a bar, then he must support them too.
Well, that tells you something about American democracy. For one thing about the elections, the public relations firms that run the elections are very careful to marginalize the issues, keep them off the table and to focus on what are called “qualities.” “Is he a nice guy?” “Would you like to meet him in a bar?” “Is he sort of friendly?“ so on and so forth, “Does he look straight in the eye?” that kind of thing. “Is he religious enough?” but not whether they stand on the issues. That’s too dangerous because the public disagrees on a host of major issues, mentioned a couple, with the elite consensus. So therefore you got to keep the public marginalized, and they are. This is one example.
What would the effects be? You know, we can’t predict in detail but we can anticipate that they will be severe. Will this lead to wars? Well, it’s already happening so we don’t have to predict that. The struggle and the conflict in Darfur for example, which is horrendous, is in certain respects, a global warming war. Regions that had been shared by farmers and nomadic groups are now declining, disappearing. There is struggle over territories and that’s leading to a lot of issues of atrocities. It’s not the only factor, others are, but it’s exacerbating the conflict in significant ways.
Take resources wars. One of them, we’re now-- right now in fact, it happens to be the 40th anniversary of one major resource war, namely Israel-Palestine. That’s a pretty arid area.
In one of the major water resources is the Jordan River, or what used to be the Jordan River. There isn’t much of Jordan River left anymore, it’s kind of a trickle, but it used to be a river. What happened? Israel intentionally hijacked the river. It took the weather waters fall down in a big rift into the river. They are simply picked up by the Israeli- which is called the National water carrier, a big pipeline goes down into Negev, and if you want to find the waters in Jordan, you look into the pipeline.
The 1967 war, to significant extent, had to do with control of water resources. That includes both the headwaters to the Jordan, and also the aquifer, a big aquifer which is under the West Bank and it’s sort of near the official border and Israel wants to use the aquifer. It had already been tapping into it before the 67 war. But after the 67 war, it controlled it. By now Israel controls the West Bank aquifer and you look at figures, I don’t have them in my head right now but the overwhelming majority of that water goes to Israeli Jews, not Palestinians.
In West Bank settlements, you find illegal settlements in the West Bank, you find nice long swimming pools, so on and so forth, plenty of water. In a neighboring Arab village, people may have to either get the water brought in in trucks which is prohibitively expensive or walk through three hours to a well somewhere up on the hills where you can get some water to bring it back home, is right next door. The same is going on in Gaza.
The current Israeli plans, and I should really be, to be accurate, they are US-Israeli plans. Israel can do nothing without the massive, diplomatic, military, economic and ideological support from the United States and the tacit agreement, silence of Europe, which goes along more or less, apart from a couple of words.
So the US-Israeli plans, the current ones, are to annex the regions which happen to control the West Bank aquifer. What’s called the separation wall, which is now an annexation wall officially, is intended to annex regions behind the wall which include much of the arable land in the West Bank and also are the kind of nice suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but also happen to control the water, the West Bank aquifer. You know, essentially, that’s only one piece of the annexation proposals. Israel is also planning to annex the Jordan Valley, in arable land in what’s left the water. So yeah, there was a water war 40 years ago, it’s now the 40th anniversary. We can expect a good deal more of such things.
Take the invasion of Iraq for example. Except for fanatics like Tony Blair and a lot of the press, it’s pretty obvious that A major goal, if not THE major goal was to control, to increase US control over the oil resources of the region. I mean that’s transparent.
But it’s more than that. Iraq also has water resources which are scarce in the region. That’s why Iraq was the great root of western civilization, Mesopotamia. It had ample water resources. And they are precious resource, are going to become even more precious resource in the future. Some of the things that are happening in Indian-Pakistan and elsewhere, it’s worldwide phenomena and that’s a serious problem.
3b On Jimmy Carter's book
The problem of utilization of water resources in the future is going to be very serious. And one of the anticipated environmental effects of global warming is to heighten these dangers to reduce them so we can expect, we already have had the water wars in addition to other resource wars. These things in -- exactly how avoidable this is, we don’t know. I mean some scientists argue that we’ve maybe even passed the critical point where there’s not too much we can do about it. But we can once again be confident that the longer the delay, the worse the effects are going to be primarily for the poor, as usual.
Q: Professor Chomsky, following up on what you said about Israel/Palestine, now Jimmy Carter, the former USA president recently in his book, he described this situation in Palestine as “Apartheid” system. To what extent do you agree on that?
Chomsky: There was a huge furor about Carter’s use of the word “Apartheid,” which is again pure cynicism. The term is used regularly in Israel. You can read it in the editorials of Israel’s leading newspapers and commentary by leading analysts and so on, referring to the West Bank. Actually there are things to be said about “Israel proper” but put that aside. The occupied territories are commonly described as a system of Apartheid. In fact some described it as much worse than Apartheid. Including Ronnie Kasrils, one of the leading, Jewish incidentally, south African opponents of Apartheid, a courageous man, minister of the government traveling in the West Bank and he says it was worse than Apartheid ever was. The use of the word Apartheid for the West Bank is at least appropriate and not controversial. And the hysterical reaction to it in the United States is a sign of the decline of democracy. In a functioning democratic society people ought to know that but it’s the kind of part of ideological sign of it.
What about the rest of the book? Actually he gave pretty an accurate description of what it’s like in the occupied territories, which is rare, that’s sometimes done but rare. The book actually had, there were hordes of people trying to find some error in the book to discredit it. There was article after article finding some trivial phrase you can misinterpret. There is actually one serious error in the book. But that’s been totally ignored. One serious error in the book is Carter’s reference to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982. What he says is the invasion was taken in response to Palestinian terrorism in the north of Israel. Well, that’s the conventional line and it’s a total fabrication. All the documentation is fully available, was available in 1982 and 1983. There was a ceasefire, initiated by the United States incidentally. The Palestinians lived up to it. Israel didn’t. They continued regular attacks in Lebanon often killing lots of people in an obvious effort to elicit some PLO response, Palestinian response which could be used as a pretext for the invasion. If you want precision, there were two very light and symbolic retaliations, period. The rest of it was all Israeli attacks. Lots of it were reported in fact. Again, killing people, bombing and so on.
While they couldn’t get pretext for the invasion, they just invaded anyway with US support, killed maybe 15, 20 thousand people, destroyed a large part of southern Lebanon, all way up to parts of Beirut. Well, Carter repeats the conventional falsification about this, and that’s the one serious error in the book. But nobody has ever mentioned it because it’s considered appropriate to fabricate in support of state policy. So it’s very important principle, it has to be preserved, you have to have right to lie in support of state crimes. So that error is ignored.
There is also one major contribution of the book, which is also ignored. Carter I think is the first person in the mainstream, it’s been discussed in dissident circles, but the first person in the mainstream to report and give the evidence for the fact that Israel instantly rejected The Road Map of the Quartet. The Quartet is US, UN, European Union and Soviet Union, who established the so called Road Map, which is politely described as George Bush’s vision, as to how to proceed to resolve the conflict.
The standard line is that terrible Arab didn’t live up to the Road Map. In fact Israel instantly rejected the Road Map. And that’s quite important. One of the pretexts for strangling Palestinians, Britain and West Europe were involved in this too, punishing them for voting the wrong way in a free election in January 2006, severely punished them. One of the pretexts is that the party with a plurarity of votes, Hamas, doesn’t accept the Road Map. Well, it’s rather important that was Israel that rejected it instantly. How did they reject it? By… in a usual deceitful way that the government use, formally accepted it and it immediately added 14 reservations which completely eviscerated it. You can read them in the appendix to Carter’s book.
Actually they have been available for years, and people like me talk about it but never entered in the mainstream. Ok, it entered the mainstream with Carter’s book, that’s very significant. Right for today, I haven’t seen it mentioned of that. So the two the most important parts of this book, as far as I’m aware, aren’t mentioned.
One, what it revealed about this crucial matter of the Road Map-- when I say Israel rejected it, I again, mean the United States and Israel rejected it—Israel’s rejection was approved by the United States. So yes, the US undermined the Road Map that’s supposed to be Bush’s vision.
Those two, the most important contribution of the book and one serious error in the book passed without comment, which tell us something about our own intellectual culture, about our universities for example where intellectual culture is formed and developed.
There’s a principle which says it’s appropriate and in fact even noble to lie in support of state crimes. It’s criminal to tell the truth that would reveal the nature of state crimes. I’m purposefully exaggerating but not too much. And this is a clear example of it.
So, yes apart from this, Carter’s book was good, reporting things that ought to be known but that aren’t known. So it was therefore contribution. Speaking about public opinion again, it’s notable that though the book was bitterly lambasted in commentary in the press and editorials and so on, it was the top of best sellers.